A practical epic, Silappadikaram

Gita Hariharan is moved by Priyadarshini’s bharathanatyam performance on Silappadikaram. Hence she writes about this Illangovaidgal epic. Silappadikaram is one of the five epics of tamil(name the other 4 ?) and is clearly a poetic masterpiece, considering the story, the characterization, the magical charm of tamil usuage(thera manna seppuva thudaiyen) and ofcourse the genius of Illangovadigal.

Though the column starts a rehash of the the epic, goes on the compare the practicality of the epic to derive storyline from the commoners and how it clearly stands out as a true epic just like Ramayana and Mahabharatha. This is a superbly written column, that reminds of how Kannagi was made into merely a goddess of chastity by the hypocrites. Mr. Illango would be upset now for his protagonist Kannagi is now used a weapon to wage political wars.

From the column, Another Epic, Another India

The route of the Silappadikaram does not take us to the usual epic battlefield where power struggles are played out. It considers, instead, some other important businesses of life — not only trade and commerce, but also the practice of music and dance. A good life, a civilized life, is not just a matter of honour. It is also a matter of putting together several less exalted ingredients — from prosperous trade and good sewage in the city to excellence in the arts and harmony among different religious communities.

In contrast, Kannagi uses her just cause to strip herself, not of her clothes, but of something more radical — a part of her body that signifies nurturing womanhood. It is possible then to read Kannagi’s story as a striking down of a “patriarchal-ruled” city; it also reminds us of how a complex story can be reduced, in official memory, to a convenient label — the goddess of chastity.


  1. Ferrari came first!:(..neways, Silapathikaaram lends itself to be interpreted in as many ways as possible..thats the beauty of the epic!

  2. Another reason for me to follow this Dance Drama was Bombay S Jayashri , who has composed the music . Im curious to listen to the music ( hoping the music will have quite good number of “Viruttams” ) , which i was told wasnt released as a CD .Has anyone here been to the show ?

    I remember B Jayashri performing in Blore Habba last year for a Dance Drama but Im not sure if it was the same .

  3. I did have the good fortune to view Silapadhigaram performed so brilliantly by the Cleveland Cultural Association(CCA) at the SV Temple in pittsburgh on Deepavali day 2004. It was mesmerising, to say the least. The troupe led by Narendra held the audience to their seats for a complete 3 hours.

    For a novice like me, this was an amazing experience. The music by Bombay Jaishree, Lyrics by Kanimozhi Karunanidhi and the choreography by Narendra had the crowd asking for more. The whole group of dancers were at once professionally gifted and extremely graceful in their performances etched in fine artwork recreation of the Sangam Era.

    Many shed a tear at the scene of kovalan’s death that had kannagi lamenting her misfortune. Also, the tamil used in the play was nothing short of divine. It was a pleasuer listening to one of the most wondrous forms in which my language can be spoken.

    I urge you people, do not miss out on any performances of this group…wherever they play, whatever they play and whatever be the cost. I am sure it will be money’s worth recovered. I feel at once guilty and blessed to have gotten to see this show for free !!!

    see some more photos here: http://www.lokvani.com/lokvani/article.php?article_id=2174

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